Monday, December 26, 2011

Breakfast Hoagie

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend full of family, fun and good food.  Maybe after eating all of that traditional food you're in the mood for something quick, but still indulgent if you have a day off this week.

In the name of all things ridiculous, why would you want to eat a hoagie for breakfast?  I thought it sounded crazy, too, but around these parts we have a lovely convenience store/gas station/fast food mart called Wawa.  Wawa started selling breakfast hoagies earlier this year.  If you've ever lived in the Philadelphia area you'll know that Wawa is legendary for having everything you need to get through your day.

Case in point:  We discovered the breakfast hoagie on our way to the beach back in August last year. I pulled in to get gas and a cup of coffee and to make a rest stop.  My hubby went up to the deli counter to get us some food.  He noticed that they had breakfast hoagies for $2.99.  $2.99 for bacon, eggs and cheese made to order on a classic 12-inch hoagie roll?  Okay!  He ordered one and devoured the entire thing.  I got in a bite or two.  I'll admit, it was good.

So what if you don't live near a Wawa?  What if you live near one, but you don't feel like getting in your car and driving to get a fast food breakfast sandwich?  What if you are like me and you like really good quality bacon and the finest American cheese?  Well, you'll need to make your own breakfast hoagie!

If you live in a place that doesn't have fresh hoagie rolls I feel sorry for you I hope you can find some type of long roll that's crusty on the outside and soft on the inside.  Once you have the roll, you're on a roll!

First I cooked up some bacon.  I like to roast mine in the oven for about 12 minutes at 400 degrees.

I turned on the broiler and put the roll under the broiler for a few minutes to toast it up... Then I scrambled up some eggs and started layering everything on the roll...

First eggs, then cheese, then bacon (not eggs on top like I did in this photo... doh!)...

The cheese is like glue for the eggs and the bacon.  Pure deliciousness.  Of course, this isn't exactly a healthy breakfast, so make this an occasional treat and save it for a morning when you  know you're going to have a long day.

And there you have it!  A homemade breakfast hoagie.  A simple combination of toasted bread, eggs, cheese and bacon that's enough food for two reasonable adults (or one very hungry husband).  You don't even need a recipe for this one!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Emile Henry Giveaway Winner!

The randomly selected winner of the Emile Henry loaf pan is:

Entry #1 - Kayris

Thank you to everyone who entered and stay tuned for future giveaways.  I have other cooking-related prizes for the near future.

Kayris, please email me at keeleycancook (at) to set up delivery of your prize. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Beef Enchiladas

I love Tex-Mex food, or at least the Mid-Atlantic approximation of real Tex-Mex that I get around here.  Salsa, tacos, burritos, Chipotle... all of these things make me very, very happy.  I've had the pleasure of visiting the great state of Texas twice and I can assure you that the highlight of my visit was the cuisine.  While it's not always good for your waistline, Tex-Mex is really tasty and a welcome departure from the typical soups, salads, pastas and pizzas that we serve so much around this house.

I've posted and tried a few enchilada recipes, including these delicious Pork Enchiladas.  I like that you can stuff enchiladas with any meat (or even beans and veggies) and that you can go authentic and use corn tortillas or you can break all the rules and use flour tortillas.  I recently tried a great recipe from (who else?) my BFF Pioneer Woman and it came out really well.

Her recipe calls for mixing ground beef with onions and green chilies (and I can see myself trying pork or chicken, too)...

Making a red sauce from canned enchilada sauce and chicken broth (again, I'll be borrowing this technique) and thickening it with a little flour...

She adds in some chopped black olives and tops hers with sour cream.  I omitted both of these ingredients, but you can put them back in if it works for you.

I think enchiladas are a great vehicle for leftover lean meats like pulled pork, rotisserie chicken or even roast beef.

The Pioneer Woman's recipe made a ton of enchiladas (enough to serve 6 hungry adults).  I served mine with Salsa Rice and we had a really good dinner, plus leftovers.  I assure you that these enchiladas are better than many I've eaten in restaurants and they are the best that I've made at home.  The filling is flavorful and they have the perfect amount of red sauce.  I topped mine with fresh cilantro and green onions and it gave them a nice, fresh finish.  Even my onion and pepper-hating husband liked these.

These are a bit involved for a weeknight (it took me nearly an hour to get them in the oven), but the leftovers heat up well and that's one of my qualifications for a good weekday meal.

Want the original recipe?  I pretty much followed this recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

There's still time to enter the Emile Henry Giveaway!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Carrot Bread + Emile Henry Giveaway!

I am so excited about this post and this giveaway!  First, the recipe.  Carrot bread?  I know, I know... you've heard of carrot cake and you may or may not like it.  Well, this is kind of like carrot cake, but not as sweet and it has a perfectly smooth texture, not a chunky or stringy texture that you find in some carrot cakes.  Does that make sense?  Think pumpkin bread and you're in the ballpark on this one.  Hesitant to give it a try?  It's worth the extra effort.  My coworkers devoured this bread both times I brought it to the office.  People have been begging for the recipe.  Here it is.

Before you click away and assume that this recipe is way too non-conventional to be good (and easy), let me tell you that if you like the warm, fall-spiced and moist taste of Sweet Potato Pie or Pumpkin Bread, this recipe is right up your alley.

First, you need to puree some carrots.  It's the most annoying part of this recipe and you may want to do it the day before you bake the bread because it will take a full hour of cook time, mashing, etc.  But, I promise, it's worth it.

You take a 1 pound bag of baby carrots (or 2 bags if you're making 2 or more loaves... you'll want to double this recipe).  Put the carrots in a big pot with about 1 1/2 cups of water and simmer on medium/high for 45 minutes or until softened.  Then, you need to whip those carrots into a smooth puree.  I used an immersion blender.  Maybe you have a blender of a food processor that can do the job.

 At this point you have some beautiful, orange, smooth puree that you can store in the fridge until you need it (up to 3 days or so).

 When it's time to make the bread, you'll be using 1 1/2 cups of puree per loaf.  You should be able to get a little more than 1 1/2 cups of puree from one pound of carrots.

I add plenty of wintery spices to this bread and I also use half whole wheat flour.  This bread is hearty, not too sweet, and pretty healthy.  Make sure you sift your dry ingredients (yes, the wheat flour may separate during sifting, just mix it back in).  You don't want any big chunks of baking powder in your bread.

 Then you mix together your wet ingredients (butter, sugar, puree, vanilla).  Introduce the wet to the dry...

 Stir until just combined.  Then, the best part... the raisins!  I know there are some raisin haters out there, but I love me some raisins, especially golden raisins.  If you're a raisin hater you could add some nuts... or if you love both, add both!  I like to toss my raisins in a tablespoon of flour before stirring them into the batter.  I think it keeps the raisins from sinking to the bottom of your loaf of bread... or at least that's what they say on television.

After the loaf takes a trip to the oven, you get this goodness...

This bread makes me very happy at 7:00 am on a 35 degree morning in traffic on I-95.  Oh yeah, it's the good stuff.

Now, you're probably thinking, "Keeley, this bread looks so good, but I don't have a loaf pan!"  My dear readers, I have your back.  Since it's almost Christmas and all, I have a giveaway.  I picked up this lovely Emile Henry Loaf Pan last weekend and I'm going to give it away to one lucky reader:

Sorry for the mediocre photo... it's late!
The rules?

  • Contest is open today (Friday, December 16, 2011) and ends at 11:59 on Monday, December 19th, 2011
  • To enter, please leave a comment telling me your favorite type of bread.
  • I'm only shipping this prize to the U.S., so please keep this in mind as you enter.
  • This giveaway is not sponsored by Emile Henry, it's just me showing love to my readers. Thanks for reading!
  • I'll announce the winner on Tuesday.  Please email me directly to claim your prize and arrange shipment.
This contest ended.  A winner was selected for this giveaway on 12/20/11.

Okay, here's the recipe:

Carrot Bread
a Keeley original
yield 1 loaf

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups carrot puree (instructions in this blog post for making puree)
1 T. vanilla flavoring
3/4 c. raisins tossed in 1 T. flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper.
In a large bowl bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until well mixed. Stir in eggs and carrot puree until well mixed.
Make a well in the dry ingredients (flour mixture) and stir in the wet ingredients (carrot mixture). Do not overmix. Gently stir in raisins and pour into prepared loaf pan (batter will be thick). Wrap pan on the counter a few times to even out the mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 75 minutes. Bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove bread from pan immediately after baking and place on a cooling rack.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Corn and Cheddar Chowder

I really like soup, especially thick, hearty, artery clogging filling soups on cold days.  In the summer I enjoy lighter, broth-based soups that are loaded with vegetables, but a nice bowl of Roasted Potato and Leek Soup or Chili can really serve as a full meal on a cold winter day.  Add a grilled cheese on sourdough and I'm in heaven.

My husband has to drive through rural Southeastern Pennsylvania for his commute, so he passes tons of roadside stands with fresh produce.  In the summer he often brings home fresh sweet corn.  This year my mom blanched and froze some of this corn, so we have plenty to enjoy during the winter months.  Of course, if you didn't go through the trouble of preserving your own corn this summer you can always hit up the frozen food section of your local grocery store.  Or, if you're making this soup in the summer, get that corn fresh off the cob!  There's nothing like it.

As much as I enjoy hearty soups, I try to lighten the recipe in a way that won't compromise the taste.  Whenever a soup calls for half and half (or heavy cream) I like to try to substitute 1% milk for at least half of the dairy.  Sometimes the texture isn't as thick, but since I end up reheating soup for lunch it thickens up in the fridge.  I also always choose very flavorful cheeses like sharp white cheddar or Parmesan so I can use less cheese and get a big punch of flavor.  I also take the opportunity to load my soups up with vegetables like peppers, onions and corn for a chunkier consistency and a larger serving of vegetables.  Of course, with all that said, I've been known to brown my vegetables in bacon fat to create the base for my soups.  You don't need to go there, but I think a tablespoon of bacon fat really gives you that nice, smoky flavor.  If you decide to do so, you can cook your bacon in the morning for breakfast and store the rendered fat in a covered container in your refrigerator.  Or, you can just use vegetable oil like a normal person.

This soup starts with browning your chopped onions and peppers in oil (or bacon fat)...

Then stir in corn and chopped bacon...

Stir in some flour...

Then stir in milk (and/or cream)...

Finally, you add your cheese and you're ready to eat.  (I use Cabot Sharp White Cheddar... it's my favorite!)

I added some extra bacon on top and I served it with Rosemary Bread.  It was heavenly.  This bread also makes a fantastic grilled cheese.  Your tummy will be full and warm and you won't mind that it's 30 degrees outside.

I believe this soup rivals anything you'd enjoy in a restaurant and if you make it at home you'll have at least six servings.  For us, that's one dinner and two lunches.  Packing lunch = more money to spend on (or save for) fun stuff.

December has been a busy month, but I do have a few more recipes to share before Christmas.  I also have a very good giveaway coming up before the holiday.  Stay tuned!  Hint: It's baking-related.

Corn and Cheddar Chowder
adapted slightly from The Pioneer Woman

6 slices of bacon
1 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
4 cups of fresh corn (off the cob) or frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup flour
3 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 cups half and half (or milk, or a mixture)
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

In a large pot, cook bacon over medium-high heat. Remove bacon, but keep the drippings in the pot.  Drain the bacon and chop it into small pieces.  Cook onions for a couple of minutes in the bacon fat. Add half of the bacon and cook for another minute or so, then add diced peppers and cook for a couple of minutes. Finally, add corn and cook for a minute (for fresh corn) or up to 10 minutes (for frozen corn).

Sprinkle flour evenly over the top and stir to combine. Pour in broth and stir well. Allow this to thicken for 3 or 4 minutes, then reduce heat to low. Stir in half-and-half or milk, then cover and allow to simmer/thicken for 15 minutes or so.

Stir in cheeses. When cheese is melted and the soup is hot, check seasonings. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Pot Roast

Before I even get started, let me state that I (generally) don't like beef.  I don't eat hamburgers and I prefer to use turkey in my meatballs instead of ground beef.  I don't even like steak.  It's just the way I am.  I can't help it.

With all that said, I really enjoyed this pot roast.  And yes, it's a beef pot roast.  Special shout out to The Pioneer Woman for putting me on to this recipe.  It was easy (although I learned that beef is more expensive than poultry or pork) and my husband thought he had forgotten our anniversary when I put this meal on the table.  (He's a meat-eater who got stuck with a white meat-loving spouse.)  It was just that good.  I've also served this pot roast for company and it went over really well.  It made at least eight servings, but I'm sure the leftovers would be delicious on sandwiches.

Four pounds of thick, marbled beef... a rare purchase for me.
It takes about 30 minutes to chop and brown the necessary ingredients, then you place the entire pot in the oven for at least four hours.  Your house will smell amazing and you can go on with your day.  I like to do this on the weekend when I have work to do and it's great knowing that my dinner is in the oven simmering away.  I didn't do this in a slow cooker (the original recipe calls for the oven, so I stuck to the recipe), but maybe you could use the slow cooker and get the same results.

Carrots and onions, ready to be browned in the pot.

Ready for a four hour excursion in my oven... the house already smelled amazing!
There's no need for me to re-print this recipe since I made it exactly as shown on The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  Red wine is optional and I used it in the recipe.  I popped open a nice Cab and then served the rest with dinner.  Also, make sure you splurge and use fresh herbs.  I really think fresh thyme and rosemary makes a difference in this one.

It felt good to branch out and try a recipe that isn't in my normal repertoire.  I also felt great to make this completely from scratch without using any processed ingredients.  If you have 30 minutes of hands-on time, plus a few hours at home, you can make this pot roast.

Want the recipe?  Get it here.

Serve with mashed potatoes and the vegetables... all is right in the world.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Making the Switch

So I disappeared for a week... for a good reason!  After much consideration I've finally decided to invest in a MacBook Pro, so I'm in the process of learning the difference between my old PC and this new Mac.  I'm very excited about my new computer, but it's still very new (I just moved all of my photos over, but they are organized differently).  I'll be back with a recipe very, very soon.  I just wanted to let you know I'm still here and I'm still cooking.  You can blame this on my iPhone.  It got me addicted to Apple products!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

What are your plans for Thanksgiving?  As much as I love to cook and bake, I've never had the pleasure of hosting Thanksgiving at our home.  I'm looking forward to being able to host a nice sit-down dinner once we have a home with a dining room, but in the meantime, I'm contributing to two other family feasts.

I'll be making Yeast Rolls, Sweet Potato Pie, and macaroni and cheese (I just realized I need to share a recipe for a classic mac & cheese... coming soon!).  Sweet Potato Pie is the single most popular recipe on this blog.  I learned this recipe from my grandmom and I made sure I finally wrote it down with exact measurements so I could guarantee that great taste every single year.  We used to just estimate the ingredients, but it's been really helpful for me to write it all down.  If you've never had a Sweet Potato Pie, give it a try sometime this season!

While sweet potato pie looks like pumpkin pie it's a bit heavier and thicker.  I also season mine with less spice than is common in pumpkin pie.  I like a fresh, slightly-sweet, slightly-citrusy flavor.

I've also been snacking on one of my favorite winter fruits all week:  clementines.

My obsession with all things citrus (especially clementines and pink grapefruits) started in college.  I'll be eating many, many clementines this year, especially when you can pick up box for less than $5.  They're perfectly sized for a quick snack, seedless and the peels make a great freshener for your garbage disposal.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Hope you have safe travels (if you're traveling) and great meals.  If I can get my house cleaned up over the weekend I'm looking forward to putting up our Christmas decorations!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

My canning obsession continues, so here's a post for a large batch of cranberry sauce that you can preserve in jars (my favorite method) or cut in half and still have way too much for your average Thanksgiving dinner.  I'm a fan of preservation because I take a few hours on a weekend and I have homemade stuff for at least a year.  I think this is the easiest canning recipe I've made so far because cranberries don't need to be sliced or peeled.

I made this cranberry sauce during my snowy Halloween weekend canning date with Jennifer.  (I also made delicious Ginger Pear Preserves that I've learned are delicious on a cracker with brie, but that's another story.)

Okay, you start with cranberries...

Mix the cranberries with water, sugar and orange zest...

Cook them...

Ladle into jars...

Boil the jars...

And that's it!  You have cranberry sauce that will last you until fall/winter 2012 (if you don't eat it all!).  Think beyond Thanksgiving for cranberry sauce.  I like mine on my Stuffed French Toast.  I'll be cracking open my first jar (or two) this week for Thanksgiving dinner (and probably using it as a topping on waffles for breakfast over the weekend!).

(And if you follow the recipe closely, your cranberry sauce won't have little air bubbles like mine!)

I know I keep saying this, but canning is pretty easy.  It just takes patience, clean jars, and a few big pots.  Every time I open a jar of preserved fruit or vegetables I feel so proud.  I know exactly what I'm eating and so far everything I've made myself tastes better than the version from the store.  (If you don't know anything about canning, start by checking out this site.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
from Ball (I bought the book... well worth the money)
yield 4 pints or 8 half pint jars (I used half pints)

4 cups granulated sugar
4 cups water
8 cups fresh cranberries (about 2 lb)
Grated zest of 1 large orange, optional
4 (16 oz) pint or 8 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands
1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) COMBINE sugar and water in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil hard for 5 minutes. Add cranberries and return mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until all berries burst and liquid begins to sheet from a metal spoon, about 15 minutes. Stir in orange zest, if using, during the last few minutes of cooking.
3.) LADLE hot cranberry sauce into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot cranberry sauce. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
4.) PROCESS jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Half Recipe
Makes about 2 (16 oz) pints or 4 (8 oz) half pints
You will need:

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
4 cups fresh cranberries (about 1 lb)
Grated zest of 1/2 large orange, optional
2 (16 oz) pint or 4 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands
1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) COMBINE sugar and water in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil hard for 5 minutes. Add cranberries and return mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until all berries burst and liquid begins to sheet from a metal spoon, about 15 minutes. Stir in orange zest, if using, during the last few minutes of cooking.
3.) LADLE hot cranberry sauce into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot cranberry sauce. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
4.) PROCESS jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chunky Chili

I have a confession:  Until recently I never successfully made chili from scratch.  I tried, but I never got the balance of spices and the consistency right, so I relied on (gasp!) pre-packaged seasoning mixes.  

I had a taste for chili this past Sunday, but I wasn't in the mood to go back to the grocery store for a box of pre-packaged chili seasonings, so I decided to make up my own recipe.  The funny thing is that this recipe isn't even that complicated, unusual, or elaborate, but it tastes great and it convinced me that I won't be needing my chili training wheels anymore.

Several of the ingredients for this recipe were sitting in cans in my pantry:  black beans, small red beans, Ro-Tel, and tomato sauce.  Before I go any further, I acknowledge that some people think that chili with beans is just wrong.  I respect that opinion, but my family loves beans and I beans are healthy and low-fat, so I added tons of beans.  I also went to town on the veggies by adding bell peppers, onions and Ro-Tel (a canned mixture of tomatoes and green chiles that I can't believe I didn't know about until adulthood).

I opted for a mixture of ground turkey and ground beef because I don't really like beef and I knew I could get the beefy taste that most people want with a blend of ground meats simmered in beef stock.  The result?  This is some good chili! My only complaint is that it could be spicier, but you could remedy that by adding a chopped jalapeno or adding a bit more cayenne pepper.  A word of caution:  this recipe has enough salty ingredients that I opted not to add any salt.  I suggest you prepare the recipe as stated and then add salt to taste, if necessary.

I made a big pot (8-10 servings) on Sunday afternoon, let it simmer until dinnertime, and I plan to enjoy the leftovers for lunch at work.  I've also successfully frozen chili in the past, so that's an option, too.  I like my chili with tortilla chips or grilled cheese or on nachos.  How do you like your chili?  Are you a beans or no beans person?  Is there a food that you love to eat, but haven't mastered?

Chunky Chili
a Keeley original
8-10 servings

1 large onion, diced
1 fresh bell pepper (I used red, green would work, too), diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground turkey
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
3 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 14-ounce can Ro-Tel (original flavor)
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can small red or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups low-sodium beef stock
2 Tablespoons corn flour (Masa, look for it in the Hispanic/Latino aisle) dissolved in 1/3 cup warm water

Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil to a large pot or Dutch oven.  Heat to medium and saute onions and peppers for 3-5 minutes, or until softened.  Add in garlic and saute for another minute, stirring constantly.

Add ground turkey and ground beef and increase heat to medium high.  Cook, stirring frequently to break up the meat, for 8-10 minutes or until meat is cooked through.  Drain any excess liquid or fat from the pot.

Add cumin, chili powder, oregano, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and cinnamon to the meat.  Stir to combine.

Add tomato sauce, beef broth, beans, and Ro-Tel to the pot.  Stir to combine.

Pour masa mixture into the pot and stir to combine.

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste for seasonings and serve hot or refrigerate and reheat later.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Smitten Kitchen Apple Cake

A little over a year ago a friend introduced me to a great food blog called Smitten Kitchen.  Deb, the blogger, shares her culinary creations from her tiny New York City kitchen and I've been trying several of her recipes and I agree with her taste (most of the time!).  She even has a cookbook in the making and I'll definitely be buying it.

I noticed her apple cake recipe a while back and I immediately made it for my family.  Despite the fact that I made this fall-ish cake in the middle of July, we all loved it and I went ahead and made it again this fall.  It has the dense texture of a pound cake but the moist, fruity goodness of chunky fresh apples.  I agree with Deb that this cake is "so much better than the sum of its parts".  You probably have everything  you need to bake this cake in your house right now... so go ahead and bake it!  It's good for dessert and I'll admit that I even ate some of the leftover slices with coffee in the morning.

This cake is very sturdy, so you can absolutely make it a day in advance of serving and it would also travel well for say... Thanksgiving (which is two weeks away!).

I didn't make any changes to the original recipe, so if you'd like to try this cake, head on over to Smitten Kitchen for the recipe.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ginger Pear Preserves

I thought my adventures in food preservation were over once the cold weather hit, but I realized that fall brings more fruits for preserving.  Apples, pears, cranberries and citrus fruits are all in season during the cooler months and make excellent ingredients for jams, chutneys, spreads and preserves.

My friend Jennifer and I spent this past snowy Saturday canning three recipes, including these Ginger Pear Preserves.  The finished product is thick and golden with a slightly tart taste from the limes.  The combination of ginger and citrus is subtle and refreshing.  Plus, preserves are easy to make!  You dump the ingredients into a pot, cook them for a specified amount of time, then pour them into prepared jars and process according to the recipe.

My only complaint is that the recipe only yielded 3 half-pint jars.  My book cautioned against doubling a recipe (may not cook properly), but this is a really small yield!  The preserves were great, though, and I think you'll enjoy them.  Since the yield was smaller than expected you could even make this recipe without canning the preserves since you could probably just store in in the fridge and consume it within 30 days.

I'm planning to use the preserves on wheat toast, English muffins or as a filling for some Christmas cookies!  If you're new to canning, Ball has some great resources to get you started(I wasn't paid or perked by Ball, but I do love their recipes and they taught me a lot about canning!)

Ginger Pear Preserves
recipe yield says 7 half-pint jars, but I ended up with half that yield
from Ball

5-1/2 cups finely chopped cored peeled pears (about 8 medium)
Grated zest and juice of 3 limes
2-1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbsp freshly grated gingerroot
7 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) COMBINE pears, lime zest and juice, sugar and gingerroot in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and test gel. If preserves break from spoon in a sheet or flake, it is at the gel stage. Skim off foam. If your mixture has not reached the gel stage, return the pan to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, for an additional 5 minutes. Repeat gel stage test and cooking as needed.
3.) LADLE hot preserves into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
4.) PROCESS jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Monday, October 31, 2011

White Halloween!

In my 31+ years I don't think I've ever seen snow in October, at least not at my house.  While "White Halloween" may be an exaggeration, we did get a light dusting of heavy, wet snow this past weekend.  Some areas of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and New England actually ended up with measurable snow and some schools are closed today.  A snow day on Halloween.  Crazy... at least for the Mid-Atlantic.

It was crazy to see the trees, just past their peak autumn colors and still holding on to some green summery leaves, covered in snow.  I even had to break out the snow brush for my car on Saturday. 

I spent most of the snow day with my friend Jennifer and we continued our canning adventures with Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce, Pear Ginger Preserves, and Pear Port Compote.  And yes, I'll be sharing the recipes.  As an added bonus, all of the ingredients are in season, so if you're ready to give canning a try these are perfect recipes!

For now, here's a preview from our latest canning session...

I can't wait for Thanksgiving!  Although, who am I kidding?  I don't even eat cranberry sauce with my turkey, I prefer to eat it for breakfast

Although I didn't make any Halloween-specific recipes this year, click here to link to an oldie, but goodie:  Halloween Bark!

Happy Halloween!  Are you dressing up for the occasion?  How about your kids?  Pets? 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Apple Pie in a Jar

Food preservation is my new love.  I vaguely remember my grandfather (mom's father) canning applesauce, peaches and other goodies, but that was many, many years ago... long before I was old enough to even use a stove.  In the past year I've been hearing some foodie buzz about canning.  Then Ball started having commercials about canning.  I still thought it was too difficult.  I mean, I've cut myself slicing onions and I've stepped on a food processor blade (both situations landed me in the emergency room).  Large pots of boiling water and the danger of getting the recipe wrong and dying of food poisoning didn't sound like a good idea. 

Then I realized that I love cooking from scratch.  I love gardening.  As cheesy as it sounds, I'm inspired to cook and bake when I drive through the farms on my way home from work in June, July and August.  I'm even inspired by the tiny container garden on my modest deck.  I decided to try canning.

My mom thought I was crazy.  Canning was a chore in her day, so she couldn't understand why someone would want to spend an entire afternoon processing peaches, tomatoes, apples, pears and peppers when there were perfectly good alternatives in our grocery store.  But I was determined... so I picked up this book at Costco.  It ended up being the best $12 I spent in 2011.

I started with peaches purchased at a farm in New Jersey.  I made peach jam, peach butter, and peach rum sauce.  It would have been nice if I had remembered to blog about these recipes while peaches were still in season in the Northern Hemisphere, but life happens.  I'll save those stories for 2012.

Then I had a canning date with my friend (and former classmate) Jennifer.  We took it to a whole new level with fresh salsa, roasted red pepper spread and the recipe I'm sharing today:  Apple Pie in a Jar.  And guess what?  You can find all of the ingredients to make this right now because apples are in season!

Jennifer stirring the pot.

The recipe comes from Ball's Complete Book of Home Preserving, but it's inspired by my summer trip to Vermont.  You know, the one that I still haven't blogged about?  (I'm on a roll here.)  We purchased something called Apple Pie in a Jar at a maple syrup farm and E couldn't stop talking about it.  He ate this like jam - straight up or spread on hot toast.  Since we paid nearly $10 for an 8 ounce jar I figured I'd attempt to make it on my own.  I must say, the results were good!

You start with fresh Granny Smith apples...

Peel, core, dice and throw in a big pot with some lemon juice, lemon zest and apple juice...

While that simmers, chop up some golden raisins.  Yes, raisins!  I used a food processor because I like making tons of dishes for my husband to wash.

Then you stir in pectin.  You can pick up this stuff at a specialty cooking store.  Mine came from Kitchen & Company...

The jam really tightens up once you stir in the sugar and boil it for a bit.  Then you add the raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg...

At this point things are smelling really good.  The only thing stopping you from eating this straight off the spoon is that it would burn the roof of your mouth (possibly landing you in the emergency room....).  So instead you ladle it into prepared jars, then you process it (that means submerge the jars in boiling water) for 10 minutes. 

Remove the jars, let them cool and you've got Apple Pie in a Jar that is shelf-stable for one year!

Do you think you can do this?  I know you can!  I highly recommend you read this website to get the basics down and I also recommend you purchase this book before you start. 

You can buy the supplies at a cooking specialty store or online.  I bought everything at Kitchen & Company and I invested about $35 this year to get started, but from now on I'll only need to buy extra jars (as needed, they are reusable) and new lids (for when I do reuse the jars).  Plus, home preserved food makes a fun gift for all of your friends and family who appreciate homemade food!

Here's what I think you need:
  • A large pot for cooking your recipes
  • A huge pot for processing your jars (we're talking 12 quarts or more, it doesn't have to be high quality)
  • Jar funnel (check your cooking specialty store)
  • Jar-shaped tongs (specialty store)
  • magnetic lid lifter
  • Plenty of clean kitchen towels
  • Jars + lids (I went with half-pint jars, you can do whatever you think is best)
  • Plastic ladle
  • Large bowls for prepping ingredients

Apple Pie in a Jar
adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

3/4 cup golden raisins, finely chopped
6 cups peeled, cored, chopped Granny Smith apples
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 package (1.75 oz, or equivalent measure from larger container) regular powdered fruit pectin
8 cups sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (not breakfast syrup, real syrup)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Prepare canner, jars and lids.  Check out the website and book mentioned earlier in this post.

In a large, deep pot (preferably stainless steel), combine apples, lemon zest and juice, and apple juice.  Boil gently for 10 minutes, or until apples begin to soften.

Remove from heat and stir in raisins and pectin.  Put back on heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. 

Add sugar all at once and stir constantly.  Bring mixture to a full, rolling boil and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  (It should boil so hard that you can't stir it down.)

Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon and nutmeg.  Skim foam off the top.

Ladle jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rim.  Place lid on jar.  Place screw band on jar and tighten until resistance is met (not too tight!).

Place jars back in canner (keep them upright!) and bring water to a boil.  Process for 10 minutes once water starts boiling.  Cut off the heat, wait 5 minutes, then use jar tongs to remove jars (keep them upright!).  Place jars on a kitchen towel to cool.

Allow jars to cool, then store.  If any jars have not sealed, place them in the refrigerator and consume within 30 days.  Otherwise store jars for up to a year at room temperature.

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